Free clinics draw long queues daily

People waiting outside the Public Free Clinic Society's branch at Block 327, Clementi Avenue 5, at 8.30am on Saturday. The clinic opens at 9am. The non-profit organisation says more than 70 per cent of its patients are above 51. Ailments treated rang
People waiting outside the Public Free Clinic Society's branch at Block 327, Clementi Avenue 5, at 8.30am on Saturday. The clinic opens at 9am. The non-profit organisation says more than 70 per cent of its patients are above 51. Ailments treated range from fever to diabetes.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Non-profit opens fifth clinic as it sees more patients, including some who are well off

Clinics which offer free medical consultation can draw hundreds of patients every day, including some who turn up in luxury cars.

There are more than 30 free clinics here, a check by The Straits Times has found. These clinics, many of which provide traditional Chinese medical treatment, offer free consultation, but may charge a small fee for medicine and treatments such as acupuncture.

Long lines would often form even before opening hours. Queues for the morning slot, for instance, can start as early as 6.30am, about two hours before some clinics open. When The Straits Times visited the Public Free Clinic Society's branch in Clementi Avenue 5 on Saturday, there were more than 20 patients waiting in line half an hour before the clinic opened at 9am.

The demand has seen some free clinic providers extending their services to more locations.

Yesterday, the Public Free Clinic Society officially opened its fifth free clinic in Bedok North Street 2. The new branch started operations in April. Its other outlets are in Clementi, Jurong, Geylang and Tampines.

Mr Seow Ser Fatt, the society's president, said demand has grown over the years, partly due to Singapore's ageing population. Ailments treated range from fevers and colds to chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The non-profit organisation's five clinics see over 650 patients daily, up from some 600 a year ago. More than 70 per cent of its patients are above 51 years old.

FOCUS ON THE ELDERLY

To better address the medical needs of the population, it is increasingly important to ensure a robust healthcare system is in place that addresses the medical needs of the elderly, and encourages them to take preventive measures so as to enable them to lead a long, healthy and active life.

HEALTH MINISTER GAN KIM YONG, who said that by 2030, one in four Singaporeans above the age of 60 will suffer from at least one chronic disease.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was at the opening ceremony of the Bedok branch, said that by 2030, one in four Singaporeans above the age of 60 will suffer from at least one chronic disease.

"To better address the medical needs of the population, it is increasingly important to ensure a robust healthcare system is in place that addresses the medical needs of the elderly, and encourages them to take preventive measures so as to enable them to lead a long, healthy and active life," he said in Mandarin.

Most patients are middle-aged or older, but foreign workers and even visitors from neighbouring countries turn up as well.

Free clinics are largely funded by donations, through well-wishers and fund-raising activities. There are donation boxes for patients who wish to contribute.

While most patients come from the lower-and middle-income groups, there are some who are more well off. Free clinics do not turn away the rich but hope they would help out with donations.

Mr Seow, 58, said his clinics would often see patients arriving in luxury cars.

"We don't turn them away just because they drive big cars," he added. "They visit our clinics because they prefer our physicians, and not because of the low cost."

He said many of them would donate after seeing the physicians.

One such patient is a 52-year-old who gave his name only as Mr Lim. "I will always donate when I come, so others who are less well off can receive medical help," said the sales manager, who did not reveal the amount he gives. "The flexibility (to donate any amount) allows us to give from the heart."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Free clinics draw long queues daily'. Print Edition | Subscribe